Most people know what a vegetarian is - someone who excludes meat, fish and shellfish from his/her diet - but there is sometimes some confusion as to the definition of a vegan.
The term “vegan” was coined in November 1944 by Donald Watson, founder of the first vegan society and refers to someone who rejects all forms of animal exploitation. Primarily, vegans eat a plant-based diet, excluding any animal or animal-derived product - no meat, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, honey, etc. However, beyond its dietary aspect, veganism contains global implications: vegans reject products tested on animals, do not wear wool, leather, silk or fur and of course do not take part in activities such as circus, zoos, hunting, etc. The description is not exhaustive but it is as long as the list of abuse inflicted to the “animal objects”: experimentation, farming, hunting, fur farming, bullfighting, circuses, fishing, etc. Cruelty is deeply ingrained in our cultures and vegans, as much as possible, rejects this violence on all fronts.
FOR THE ANIMALS. Every year worldwide, 63 billion land animals are killed in abattoirs*¹. To illustrate this figure, since you have stated reading this page, 90 000 animals have been killed in the worlds’ abattoirs. We must also add to this figure, billions of fish and other sea creatures as well as billions of male chicks killed by the egg industry.
FOR THE PLANET. Livestock farming is responsible for 51% of greenhouse gases*² and it uses 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the ice-free land surface on the planet*³. 1kg of vegetables is grown on 6m2, whilst 1 kg of meat needs 323 m2*. Reports by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Worldwatch Institute and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment all reach the same conclusions: climate change is real, its effects are already being observed, and livestock farming is its main cause. Deforestation, loss of biodiversity, climate change, air and water and soil pollution: livestock farming is in the centre of a complex web in which most of its effects amplify each other.
FOR HEALTH. Numerous scientific studies have proven the link between the consumption of animal products and illnesses*6. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Dietitians of Canada, representing together over 76,000 dietitians, published in 1987 their official position on vegetarian and vegan diets and concluded that "vegetarian diets (including vegan) conducted properly, are good for health, nutritionally adequate and beneficial for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases". Their position was formally reaffirmed in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2006 * 7.
To go further, please visit the links on TO GO FURTHER.
*1 FAO Stats 2010 (FAO)
*2 Worldwatch Institute, 2009
*5 PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) (reports by the British Journal of Medicine, Lancet Oncology, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Association for Cancer Research, Journal of the National Cancer Institute ...)
*6 PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) (Studies by the British Journal of Medicine, Lancet Oncology, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Association for Cancer Research, Journal of the National Cancer Institute ...)